Evidence summaries

Evidence summaries are being made available thick and fast, with vendors coming up with new products almost daily. There seems two sorts:

a) vendor packages that package together a search facility that usually include Cochrane plus some evidence-based journals. The results are often presented as summaries (pseudo critical appraisals), usually with no or little detail about methodology, sources reviewed, etc. It’s difficult to assess their validity (they may well be valid, but some transparency would help here).

b) Non-vendor summary sites. These are of course free and are generally recognised as authoritative reviews of evidence, based on a combination of the literature and EBP. Again, the results are presented in the form of summaries.

Now, purists would say (quite rightly) that the only evidence we should be giving credence to are the recognised Gold Standard sources such as Cochrane, DARE, etc. But the other argument is that a clinician may need something found quickly and these evidence summaries usually do the trick.

All in all, this presents CLs with a bit of a dilemma as to whether to use such sources or not, and if so what kind of caveats to use. What are the views out there?

Terry Harrison, CL, Royal Melbourne Hospital.


2 responses to “Evidence summaries

  1. christineurquhart

    Doesn’t use of evidence summaries (or not) depend a bit on whether they are ‘fit for purpose’? And whether, for example, how risky the treatment decision is, or whether it is reversible?

  2. There is indeed a dilemma. Clinicians need to learn/know which sites, free or subscription, are likely to provide valid information. This will usually mean carefully checking out details of the process involved in preparing material for posting on the site.

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